Building an “Easy” (and Exceedingly-Useful) Product

Building a product that’s useful isn’t that hard; the harder part is building a product that’s broadly useful, one where many folks are finding it useful in ever-increasing measure. If this is happening then you really don’t have to do much more.

Fortunately, most products don’t achieve this level of broad acceptance without obsessively-refining the mvp or alpha (or “beta“?) as the early members use it.

This is precisely where we are right now as a community and as a product as there are a handful of us — the early, true believers — who find it useful in truly meaningful and valuable ways.

A few easy and obvious examples of existential utility is the fact that my small team uses the product to build the product and without it we’d lose a critical part of our business-building process! We’d have to revert to a shittier product like Slack.

So flexible. So powerful. So YEN.

I have a number of Private Rooms for important, context-rich conversations like:

  1. YEN CORE TEAM — Where official, “staff” communication happens.
  2. TYMUR TEST — This is anther private room where I’m able to have important conversations with a new employee (they started this week!) and as we test-drive their cultural and operational fit I’ll graduate them to the larger “CORE TEAM” room post-onboarding. I could run an infinite number of these rooms with potential staffers, team members, interns, and volunteers!
  3. REPLAYED VLOG — Here I have another private room for my production team that’s helping me with my personal vlog.
  4. YEN.SHOW — Another private room for my production / story team for the YEN YouTube Channel.
  5. SPEC OPS — A private room for chats with spouse as we navigate some significant changes in our life.
  6. VENTURE UPDATES — A private room where I provide async updates on the progress of the business to our venture capital team.

This is just a taste of how I’m using YEN’s metaplatform for communication “inside” and “outside” my organization; all within the larger community sphere that is The YENIVERSE. Without this product I’d have to use a number of different tools which complicate my life and robs me of precious time that could be dedicated to more critical startup / business needs.

In short, we’ve built a crazy-flexible, multi-comm device that crazy-empowering: I can now manage my entire venture-backed company & community in a single browser-tab (plus one for GitHub / Email, but, not forever…).

I won’t lie: The reduction on both operational and financial overhead for my early-stage project is heavenly — being able to reduce my paid services into one primary platform just makes (brilliant?) sense. I mean; fuck! I built this for startup founders like me who want more control of their projects and communication cycles! I built this for folks like me and you; you know, full-stack founders. Badass motherfuckers.

But, to do that, I had to build a product that was as easy as it was flexible, as intuitive as it was powerful. This isn’t easy to configure and pull-off! Thankfully I’ve been obsessing about this for more than two decades.

Take them on an understandable journey.

There are really 3 core components to immediately-useful and valuable product, all founded on the concept of “easy”:

  1. Is the product easy to understand?
  2. Is it easy to use the product?
  3. Are folks easily motivated to come back?

If you have these elements then you’re probably on the right track. Here’s how we’ve done this from a product design perspective with the YEN infinite game machine™️:

We throw you right into a familiar experience: YEN.CHAT

At this point we know that the vast majority of folks who will visit our primary product landing page will also be familiar with systems and platforms like Slack, Discord, and other instant messaging / text-centric products. Consequently, our target user will be more than comfortable navigating and using the product. This makes it both easy to use and understand, important ingredients for a useful product.

Easy, easy, easy — make it easy. I mean, we all know what “easy” is, right?

But those two things do not necessarily guarantee that the product will find a permanent home within your user workflows and behaviors (which is the over-arching goal!) as you must also create something more useful and beneficial than what they are currently using. This is what folks in startuplandia refer to as a “10X” or “100X” improvement over existing tools and products.

Or, in other words, your product must be at least 10 times more useful / valuable than existing solutions; this sets up the 3rd condition which makes it easy to motivate folks to come back to the product. And although I consider this next statement obvious it’s worth saying aloud as a visceral reminder: This is really fucking hard to do.

10X to 100X better products don’t show up every single day and in fact the best of them have to iterate their way to the 10X as they almost never show-up on the scene, out-of-the-box, doing that (although it’s possible).

Even if they are technically faster (fast is just one thing that people care about but it’s not the most important thing):

Here’s the important and difficult truth: It takes time to convince people that you’ve built something substantially better than anything they currently have. This is both something you have to communicate non-stop and while also building-to-spec; meaning, it has to actually perform to that 10X+ standard like you said it would.

As I said before; hard shit to pull-off! But, if you can, you’re going to make a lot of people happy and going to change lives. Worth the effort.

Onboarding to die for.

We continue our focus on making things easy by simplifying the onboarding process to a single request that doubles as registration and authentication. We then make our powerful community-building toolset immediately available on the “front” of the app, impossible to miss if you’re just getting started:

We try to make it stupid-simple.

It’s taken us a handful of design iterations to get to this immediate and powerful workflow and it’s been a joy to see folks young and old build new community spaces for their members without a FAQ or ridiculous “instruction manual” — easy to understand, easy to use, and now we’re on the path to vigorously proving-out that it’s so useful and valuable that it’s easy to motivate them to come back to the product!

But this is just the beginning since the real work begins once you have your first baseline experience and have determined that there’s nothing more to remove from the core product (not add).

And, at the right time, you can begin to methodically add to the successful foundation in meaningful ways with features that continue to make it easier to use, understand, and deepen a growing appetite for more.

This is what folks call “growth” and it’s not a “hack” but a systematic approach to product design in which you should be able to assess why (or why you’re not) growing and how to instrument it properly. A singular metric is more useful than a bunch of them, especially in the beginning.

Again, at this point I can technically and financially prove substantial time and cost-savings to every single person who tries the platform but if that’s not obvious as it is easy to grok then it won’t matter at all.

Counter-intuitively, you have to work really hard to prove-out the value even and especially if it’s already working for you. This can be crazy-demoralizing because you feel like you’re the only one who really “gets it” but that’s the price of bringing a truly innovative product to market — if you can’t survive those many lonely days in the beginning you simply won’t make it!

Just don’t give up on the vision that you see some clearly in your own head and mind; if you’re already living in the future then you must also be patient for the rest of the world to catch up.

You must earn the right to build an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand, and deeply personal product that people love. This is as it should be; this is the way.™️

Oh, this: I’ll be sharing more of these thoughts in the free 5 Day Startup Workshop — I’d love to have you join me! Chat soon!